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Premier League 2014-15 preview: West Bromwich Albion

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New new new new new.

There’s tons of new players and a new manager for West Brom as they look to improve on last year’s near-miss at the bottom of the table.

Things are looking bleak for the Baggies, and while there’s plenty in the mix that could surprise the Premier League, but chances are the ingredients aren’t going to bake a tasty cake.

Instead, the chances are likely to have West Brom near the bottom of the table again, for the same general reasons, although the personnel may be different.

[Related: Full PL season preview]

Transfers in: Craig Gardner (Sunderland), Jolean Lescott (Manchester City), Chris Baird (Burnley), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hannover), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev), Andrew Wisdom (Liverpool – loan).

Transfers out: Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers), Billy Jones (Sunderland), Steven Reid (Burnley), Cameron Gayle (Shrewsbury Town), George Thorne (Derby County), Diego Lugano (unattached), Zoltan Gera (unattached), Nicolas Anelka (unattached), Scott Allen (unattached).

Full PL schedule | Watch West Brom live via Live Extra | BPL on NBC schedule |

Last season: West Brom struggled down the stretch, saving their Premier League status by the hair on their chinny chin chin. Three points separated the Baggies from the Championship.  They went through two managers last year, parting ways with both Steve Clarke and Pepe Mel, with Keith Downing in between.  They looked toothless going forward – their leading scorer had just five goals – and struggled to stay consistently competitive.

Star Player: Stephane Sessegnon

Joint leading scorer in last year’s struggle of a season, Sessegnon is an above-average player on a below-average squad. That’s about all West Brom has at this point. They dumped full-season fixtures like Diego Lugano and Zoltan Gera in the offseason, and added squad players like Jolean Lescott, Chris Baird, and an expensive left-back. Sessegnon is the creative “force” up front, and that will have to do for the Baggies.

Coach’s Corner: Alan Irvine

A surprise appointment to say the least, Irvine’s former jobs include the manager at Preston North End, Sheffield Wednesday and Everton’s youth system. Wednesday was relegated to League One under his watch, and and didn’t make it past February in the lower division.

The club reportedly asked Tim Sherwood to take the job but he turned it down, leading many to believe the job was an undesirable one. The club insisted Irvine was their first choice, but that’s just plain hard to believe. The 56-year-old is very green, and it will be interesting to see how he handles a Premier League job, and likely a relegation battle.

PST Predicts: As you probably guessed, West Brom fans are in for a nervy campaign.  Like Fulham before them, West Brom brought in a number of free transfers and aging players, and don’t have a large amount of cohesiveness preserved from last year. A new manager as well, things are looking to be a recipe for disaster.  With both Robbies on NBC’s Premier League preview show predicting West Brom to go down, it’s a likely bet.

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe I’m not good enough”

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Pep Guardiola has admitted he “may not be good enough” for his players at Manchester City.

Ahead of City’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Guardiola has been defended his squad after severe criticism from the media.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

City were hammered 4-0 at Everton last weekend, their worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever league defeat as a manager.

With plenty pointing the finger of blame at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and City’s defense, their manager put himself in the firing line.

“They are good players. I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? So I don’t understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they have been amazing players, and [people saying] they are not good enough for me. Maybe I am not good enough for them,” Guardiola said. “They are Manchester City players, top players. They have a lot of quality. They have shown that many times in the past and this season.”

Mind games.

Guardiola, 46, is no doubt facing the biggest challenge of his season as City look to at least seal a top four spot in this his debut season in England. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has already “said goodbye to the title” and if they lose against red-hot Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium then more questions will be asked of his tactics and if they can work in the Premier League.

So far the possession-based slow build up style has been hot and cold for City, with plenty of counter-attacking teams in the PL (Chelsea, Spurs, Everton, Leicester etc.) having a field day against a shaky defense.

Despite being 10 points off the pace, Guardiola is sticking by his philosophy. One thing really sticks out to me from his first few press conferences in England: “We will see if my style of play can work in the Premier League.”

So far, it’s not.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Liverpool host Swansea City to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Reds aiming to stretch their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 18 games.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Jurgen Klopp is a little concerned with the number of games his team have had to play over the past few weeks, but a victory against the struggling Swans would momentarily move his side just four points behind leaders Chelsea who play on Sunday.

As for Swansea, new manager Paul Clement knows a win would take his team out of the relegation zone and with new signings arriving that would be a massive boost. It would also be a massive ask for the Welsh side to get anything at Anfield but this may be a good time to play Liveprool after their midweek trip to Plymouth in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton coming up on Wednesday.

In team news Liverpool start with Philippe Coutinho once again, while Joel Matip is on the bench after the Reds finally settled the dispute with Cameroon. Swansea hand debuts to new signings Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Matip, Woodburn

Swansea City: Fabianski; Olsson, Mawson, Fernandez, Naughton; Cork, Carroll, Fer; Sigurdsson, Llorente, Routledge. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Amat, Fulton, Dyer, Borja, McBurnie

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.